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Mormon Life lessons

December 2, 2008

In an earlier entry, I alluded to this idea of feeling more connected to someone who shares religious background than with someone who shares national background. I confirm: if someone sets my Mormondar tingling, that will instantly enamor me with that person. Just a little bit. Even if I have no guarantees…it’s fun to listen for hints. What can I say? I know that it doesn’t work just for being American, but it does work for religious identity and culture. Please don’t deport me.

So I’d like to present you with my semester…when I signed up for my intermediate accounting class, I checked some online professorial reviews. I read something about my professor that I didn’t take too oddly at first: the teacher was very concerned with “ethics” and his “religious views” and was not afraid to get up on his “soapbox”. Well…so I thought, I go to Texas A&M. It’s not an explicitly religious school, but it still is conservative, so I wouldn’t disqualify the notion of someone being particularly open about their faith.

When the first day of class came, some of the tell-tale signs started showing up. He went to BYU for undergrad school…now I’m not saying that going to BYU makes you Mormon, but it’s a good sign that if you go there and still speak positively and enthusiastically, you’ve got a good chance. He married his wife there and has a few kids (again: not saying that all people who marry early and have kids are Mormon, but just go along!)

However, he never explicitly brought spirituality into the classroom. Sure, he talked about his family a few times and brought up Stephenie Meyer and Twilight, but then again, everyone’s watching Twilight now. So I had nothing conclusive. While I wanted some absolute sign (after all, his reviews consistently mentioned he would eventually “impose his religious views” [that review sounded kinda scary, actually]…and all I was seeing was missionary-crisp professionalism, but not quite faith promotion)…at the same time, I was glad because this wasn’t a teacher who was preaching from the podium.

Over time, things got to be more obvious (but only to those who were in the know!) On tests, he’d name companies “Lehi” or “Hinckley.” Utterly innocent, but a glaring sign.

But it was only on the last day of class that all became clear. He began by noting that since we were all eagerly awaiting information about our final in the future, he could keep us captive and waiting, so instead, he wanted to give us more important life tips.

Why did he want to talk about life in general? He said he was inspired by Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture,” and how even though Pausch was a computer scientist, he gave his last lecture over grander matters. Now, my teacher wasn’t giving his “last” lecture, but he wanted to give something. The professor was also inspired by Tuesdays with Morrie, which his grandmother had given him to read recently.

He said…he was concerned for us. That’s why he began teaching…not just to make accountants or businesspeople…but because he was concerned for people who now were where he once was. (OK, so I nearly gagged: everyone says this.) He was concerned because…*ominous chords* he saw that university life was becoming more prone to being an unwholesome environment.

There’s that good ole Mormon End-of-the-world philosophizing.

Really, he wanted us to find happiness. (I was so expecting “Wickedness never was happiness” afterward…but he left me hanging.) His points for happiness were standard Mormon fare: family is more important than career, so in the next few years, make sure you’re putting as much, if not more thought into who you will marry as you are into what career you will have.

He ended by saying that…for people of faith (he put something in saying that it was ok not to have faith, but I think this was just to cover his bases: atheists and agnostics really don’t get any love :*( ), they should not feel threatened by additional learning and education…more knowledge should enrich faith instead of destroying it. To be learned is good if they hearken unto the commandments of God…but without saying it.

I don’t know. I guess the message wasn’t too earth-shattering overall. It’s things I’ve heard before and what most people have heard before. But I guess it was special to hear that in an accounting class of all places.

But I wonder…what did my classmates think? Did the message appeal to them, who did not expect it?

What I must ask is…but for the final part that hearkens back to faith as a necessary or desirable thing…couldn’t someone figure out all of these things independently of faith?

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